Donnica Hawes-Saunders is the Founder and CEO of The Averity Group, a consulting firm that helps companies and organizations in highly regulated industries transform their reputation at the intersection of social impact, communications, and public policy. She is recognized as a mission-driven, political, and social impact strategist that specializes in complex policy and media environments. With over a decade of experience in the private sector and on Capitol Hill, Donnica connects public policy and organizational priorities with an emphasis on politically astute, coalition-based communications and strategic partnerships.
While leading global and U.S. public affairs and external communications outreach at Philip Morris International (PMI), Donnica conceptualized, developed, and directed over thirty original partnerships across six intersections: policy, media, NGOs, academic, sustainability, and diversity and inclusion, elevating PMIs brand. She secured a fifty percent increase in relationships with high-profile bi-partisan, key opinion leaders and third-party validators for the company, despite multi-billion-dollar resistance efforts within the industry. In addition, Donnica strategized and executed diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programming and advocacy across U.S. and global teams increasing PMI’s corporate visibility, engagement, and reputation in various markets.
Prior to PMI, Donnica worked at Heineken USA developing federal legislative strategy that resulted in two years of federal excise tax relief for the company, saving approximately thirteen million dollars annually. She also launched inaugural state and local legislative tracking, reporting, and communications for global and U.S. leadership. In addition, she built social impact partnerships to promote brand reputation through corporate social responsibility and DEI programming. During her tenure, she created several successful alcohol responsibility campaigns, including Heineken’s premier DRINK or DRIVE campaign in the U.S.
With several years serving as a senior staffer on Capitol Hill, Donnica has a broad background in policy and legislative strategy. She drafted and advanced legislation including bills to improve responses to victims of child sex trafficking (P.L. 114-22) and established amendment language in the 2014 Farm Bill Conference Report designating a historically black college (HBCU) as an 1890 Land Grant University, increasing access to federal funds. She worked in the offices of Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (OH-03), the U.S. House Democratic Caucus under Chairman John Larson (CT-01), and the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, under Ranking Member Bennie Thompson (MS-02).
Before working in the U.S. Congress, Donnica established a legal background through a unique combination of corporate law, litigation, negotiation, and persuasive communication training. She was a federal law clerk in the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio and for the 165th Harris County Civil District Court of Houston. She also represented clients at the Montgomery County Public Defender’s Office, Juvenile and Child Support Division, and worked at Sebaly, Shillito & Dyer in the commercial litigation department focused on bankruptcy law.
Donnica has published articles in World Leaders Magazine, SheMedia, Diplomatic Courier, Sustainable Brands, Black EOE Journal, Sustainable Brands, Swaay, and Harness Magazine for her perspectives on corporate culture, sustainability, and diversity and inclusion. She has been featured on several podcasts as well as a speaker in the U.S. and globally at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Executive Institute, the foremost expert, convener and thought leader on issues impacting today’s evolving workplaces, the Public Education Leadership Network (PLEN), the Aspen Institute, and the Concordia Summit during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
Donnica has been awarded the Yahoo Finance EMpower 100 Global Future Leaders & Top 20 Highest Achieving Changemakers for her strategy, execution, and advocacy in diversity, equity, and inclusion and the PRISM International Diversity Impact Award for creating and institutionalizing Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) programming in global organizations. She was also named one of the Top Lobbyists and Influencers in D.C. by Lawyers of Color magazine and nominated and awarded membership in the American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL), a network of global elected officials and policy experts. Donnica is an Executive Leadership Council Fellow for her work opening channels of opportunity for Black executives to positively impact business and communities and currently serves on the board of the Atlas Performing Arts Center, a historic performing arts venue in Washington D.C., the Influencer Council of Running Start, an organization that trains young women to run for political office, and is an Ambassador for the Smithsonian National African-American Museum of History and Culture (NAAMHC).
Donnica holds a J. D. from the University of Dayton School of Law, and received a B.A., magna cum laude, in Sociology and Anthropology from Spelman College.